Warm-season annuals play a number of vital roles in gardens. They offer consistent color and interest in the garden while perennials and shrubs go in and out of bloom. They provide a continuous food supply for bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and other nectar sippers. Planted near a vegetable garden, they help attract pollinators and, sometimes, repel pests. They also allow the gardener to try different flower colors and shapes each year if desired.
When cold temperatures arrive in fall, however, warm-season annuals show their disadvantage when they cease to bloom and then succumb to frost, leaving a blank space behind. Here are a few ways to fill those gaps:
- Plant cool-season annuals, such as violas or pansies (shown), that will bloom into winter in many areas. Where it's very cold, cover these with evergreen boughs as they fade, and they should survive and resume blooming early in spring.
- In addition to planting cool-season annuals, sow seeds of warm-season annual wildflowers. These will lie dormant through winter and then sprout early in spring. They'll have a head start on reaching blooming size this way.
- Plant tulip bulbs where the annuals were, and opt to treat them as annuals, too. The bulbs will bloom and then whither just as it becomes time to plant warm-season annuals again. Then the bulbs can be dug up and discarded, or dried and replanted in the fall.
- Fill the space with non-living seasonal accents. (This can be done right on top of tulip bulbs.) Place large pumpkins or gourds for the fall and decorations like lighted spheres or twig reindeer for the winter. Large, empty frost- and freeze-proof containers can make an elegant, understated filler through the winter as well.
Image courtesy of PerennialResource.com.
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